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Your Call: Why Do Men Cheat Down?

Wed, Nov 16, 2011

Advice, Dear Em & Lo, Your Call

We get a lot of advice questions coming in at EMandLO.com, but sadly, we just can’t answer them all. Which is why, once a week, we turn to you to decide how best to advise a reader. Make your call by leaving your response in the comments section below.

Why do guys cheat down? Meaning, picking a woman less attractive. My husband¬†cheated on me with a woman twice my size. He said he found her unattractive but¬†couldn’t help himself. Another friend of mine (she is a model) had her husband¬†cheat on her. It was while he was out of town and all the women were less¬†attractive. Of course these are just two examples. I was always under the¬†impression that if you are going to cheat, at least make it worth it.

What do you think? Do you agree that men “cheat down”? Why or why not?

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41 Responses to “Your Call: Why Do Men Cheat Down?”

  1. schrankers Says:

    I think it is ultimately a guilt thing. Deep down inside, they still care about their partner, and must justify to themselves that it would hurt her more if the other woman was a bombshell. Additionally, they feel less guilty using an “inferior” specimen for their baser needs…despicable as that is.

    But another thing that we need to stake into account is that this “uglier” woman might be a better fit for the guy in question- a beautiful woman does not necessarily a perfect partner make.

  2. Dannie Says:

    I think it simply has to do with the nature of cheating, which is only partly about the sex. If it were all sex, there would be no need to cheat (in many cases), no? I think for people who cheat, not just guys, it’s about the thrill of cheating, the newness of the escapade, the difference in partner, etc… All of these are accomplished no matter the physical appearance of the woman. Plus, your assumption that physical beauty is all that matters is plain wrong. Some guys may be with a totally hot girl they feel no connection to, and cheating is a way for them to have deeper connections with someone, a way to have an adventure, or even a way to see themselves as a different person. Cheating, is ultimately, a chance to–however briefly and however false–become someone else, because in general, we are different people with different people. So it’s not “cheating down.” It’s just…cheating. And it’s wrong, no matter if the man/woman is Frankenstein’s monster or divinely beautiful.

  3. Johnny Says:

    Landing a woman of high quality – whatever that means to you – often takes time, effort, perseverence… and those are the things that make a man really feel treacherous and deceitful, much more so than the sex itself.

    A “lesser” woman who makes herself available for discreet, easy sex is a poweful temptation, like low-hanging fruit.

  4. Michael Says:

    It’s just about it being different so even if the girl is less attractive it’s different than what you have everyday. And it’s not as if you’re going to take her out and introduce her to your buddies.

  5. Sophie Says:

    Maybe it’s because the less attractive women in question aren’t judgemental bitches?

  6. Sophie Says:

    You people are ugly-minded…

  7. Pretty Woman Says:

    I think it’s because men want to feel superior and almost like a king when they’re having sex. This is not to put men down, but deep down there they do have this primal feeling. They need to feel like they’re possessing their sex partner, at least to some extent. This feeling is easier to have when your sex partner is ‘less’ than you in some way. That’s why you’ll see a lot of ugly porn actresses as well and that’s why a ‘facial’ gets them off as well.

    all of this is just my guess on the male psyche :)

  8. Pretty Woman Says:

    oh and in addition…when you’re in a committed relationship where you respect your partner…you might not be able to quench this thirst for superiority…hence the cheating

  9. Emily Says:

    Men find a variety of women attractive. As a plus size woman, I can say from personal experience that lots of men find overweight women attractive. Not every man’s ideal woman is thin and/or a model.

    Here’s a novel concept: perhaps the two men given as examples didn’t view the women they cheated with as “less than” their partners. Perhaps they saw them as just different than their partners, which is the point of cheating, isn’t it?

    Also, of course he told you that he “found her unattractive but couldn’t help himself”. He was trying to get back together with you, so he’d say whatever he needed to to make you feel like this didn’t mean anything and that it was a one-time thing.

    Also, ALL the women in a particular place were less attractive than your friend? Really?

  10. Jewely Says:

    I’ll quote Debra Ollivier quoting Bertrand Blier….

    “Bernard is married to a bombshell beauty…but falls passionately in love with his slightly frumpy secretary…(‘What’s left to desire when you have perfection?’…The answer: Not much.)”

  11. Mo Says:

    Nothing is more unattractive than someone who thinks they are pretty, more than….

  12. Mo Says:

    Beauty is something that gets old quick. It’s nice to have at first, but there has to be something more to keep us interested.

    If there isn’t, then you’ll have problems. A girl who is smart, funny, and adventurous is way more fun than one who is gorgeous, lazy, and vapid.

  13. Been There Says:

    Why would a man “cheat down”? Perhaps he didn’t see it that way. I recently had an affair end, but it was red-hot while it lasted.

    He saw me on a dating site, and HE contacted ME. He was younger and hotter than me. I thought if I met him in person, he’d take one look at me and lose interest. That didn’t happen. He was well-educated and I was his intellectual equal. I’m funny. I’m independent. He had a very strong libido that complimented mine. I did things with him that his wife wouldn’t do. I even taught him a few new tricks. I was always happy to see him. He knew that I really wanted him. His gorgeous wife, who was 10 years younger than me, didn’t make him feel that way. He wanted passion. So did I. Together we made magic.

    It ended abruptly. I have to think he got caught. As a successful attorney, it probably wouldn’t have been good for his image to have that get out.

    Keep in mind that just because a car has a beautiful body, that doesn’t mean it’s fun to drive, or even that it runs.

  14. BCofUIMHere Says:

    Maybe they’re better at it than you.

  15. yallaremorons Says:

    Guys cheat down because ugly girls are easy targets and will put out with much less effort. Ugly girls will put out because they don’t have the option of being picky. Truth hurts, deal with it.

  16. figleaf Says:

    First question: They’re “uglier” according to who? “Society?” You? Or him?

    Second question: What makes anyone think that conventional/consensus beauty is the only reliable metric for male attraction?

    Third question: What makes you think beauty for men is an apex rather than a threshold?

    Fourth question: Where did you get the idea that beauty is like some kind of points system such that if you’ve got more you automatically win? Or else that it’s an entitlement such that if you’ve got more you should automatically win?

    Next question: Would you feel somehow better if he instead cheated “up?” (If so… if you really would feel better… then stop right there and think about that! Because really?)

    Final question: I’m… pretty sure you’d feel insulted if someone accused you of being attracted to men based only on the gendered masculine quality of income or worth. So why think that men, including your partner, are attracted only on the gendered feminine quality of “beauty?”

    I’m sorry your partner broke the agreement(s) you and he made earlier. I’m not excusing his behavior, nor do my disagreements make me less sensitive to your pain or anger. But I think you won’t get to the heart of why he or anyone else (male or female) cheats by using the assumptions you put in your questions.

    Good luck and I hope it all works out for you.


  17. BCofUIMHere Says:

    Figleaf — you should have an advice column. Nicely put! :)

  18. Dannie Says:

    BCofUIMH: Figleaf has a blog. You should read it!:D

  19. Lily Says:

    hells, you guys make it sound like there is a universal benchmark for beauty. its pretty clear to me that men arent attracted to one type of hot woman, but to variety. not sure, why is there even a debate here? good luck getting stats on the cheating down phenomenon..its RANDOM!

  20. frannie Says:

    I read an article awhile back (that for the life of me I cannot locate now) that explored this idea. Yes, the writer decided that ‘cheating down’ meant the girl is overweight or less attractive (by her standards), but cheating down does exist in many forms. I believe the article cited the two most topical examples at the time: Tiger Woods (who had a lovely, sophisticated wife and cheated with a fame-whoring porn star), and Jesse James (who had a lovely, sophisticated wife and cheated with a fame-whoring.. well, I don’t know what she was. Tattoo model?)
    Obviously we can none of us deduce with any accuracy what the wives in these situations were like behind closed doors, but judging by the collective cringe of the American public upon seeing the ‘other women’ for whom these men jeopardized their seemingly enviable marriages, there is at least some credence lent to a theory: hero worship.
    In both cases, the men seemed to be addicted to women who didn’t have a lot going on in their personal lives, weren’t terribly charismatic, weren’t glowing with natural beauty, and just seemed to be seeking a powerful man to lavish with praise. (Sorry to those of you who deconstructed the beauty ideal in this post– I respect your opinions but don’t think it’s applicable here.. and regardless of whether the other woman should be chastised for being ‘twice’ the writer’s size, I consider the woman in question ugly in the first place for fooling around with an involved man.)
    And any man to subscribe to this type of unfathomably cheap ego-boost.. well, they’re just as ugly as the ‘ugly’ women they’re banging on the side.

  21. Johnny Says:

    ^ That’s what I’m sayin’… the lady who wrote the original letter, in her indignation, is taking what meager solace she can in a little bit of thin-woman schadenfreude. She’s only human. Belittling the other woman makes her feel better. Any of us would find a way to do the same.

    But thin/fat is only one potential, subjective cheat-down scenario. There are many ways a guy can cheat down, and I for one would like to confirm the trend: we cheat down.

    Ladies, on the other hand, cheat up. Try being on the wronged end of THAT. What do you think is worse – for a classy woman to catch her guy with a gross skank? Or for a regular guy to catch his girl with a hot player?

    Plus, adding insult to injury, women typically leave their guys for the men they “cheat up” with. So in their heads it’s all neat and squarely justified – “I fell in love with someone else, I’m entering a new relationship, it was meant to be this way!” Sometimes that’s true, but most of the time that relationship ends also, meaning her poor bastard original boyfriend got treated reeeeaaaal shitty for nothing.

  22. Pretty Woman Says:

    I think people are reacting a little touchy here about the original writer implicitly confessing that there is such a thing as a ‘not so good looking woman’. Sure of course, beauty is in the beholder’s eyes, but let that cliche not pull the original writer’s piece out of context. I think she just means to point out that in a lot of cases where men cheat, it is remarkable that the cheated-on-with woman is a lot less physically (physically, ok, so chill) beautiful. I think she has a point there, although I have not been cheated on myself thank God. am sure that most of you would, at least to yourself, admit the difference between a physically gorgeous and a less beautiful looking woman. There are some parameters, though not 100% universal, that make a woman beautiful to a large share of people. My take is that there’s some primal hate element in sex for men especially, which makes ‘ugly’ women attractive to them purely sexually. Because they need to satisfy this urge but at the same time, do not want to be seen bound to an ‘ugly’ women to society or perhaps cannot respect them enough, they cheat with them instead.

  23. Jester Says:

    What exactly are you saying, tto say the girl was ugly or that your man cheated down. What makes us as the reader think your husband is hot or even desirable? Maybe that ugly girl is sexing down compared to who she normally has sex with. Seems to me most people NEED to believe the other woman is ugly, fat, illiterate, otherwise they might have to look in the mirror and see the REAL reason why your man went out straying.

    It maybe cliche, but when your mate goes out on you, it’s because things are not right at home. Look in the mirror, figure out what’s wrong.

    What do you mean, he was unable to help himself, what does that mean? Sounds to me like he found her very desirable, enough to cheat on you! You didn’t matter at the time he had his go with her. It’s your ego that is damaged. Are you still with him? I bet you are. Look in the mirror and feel good enough about yourself so that a man can see a confident woman. Then you won’t have to worry about your man looking or straying because he will be so mesmerized by your mystery.

  24. Lily Says:

    It seems that the ‘purpose’ of the cheating may decide..? I mean, is the guy hooking up for one night for whatever reason, or does he have other intentions, feelings for this person he is sleeping with. I have been cheated on twice, in both cases the guy ended up dumping me for the other women and they are still together. Both of them were my ‘equals’ in terms of looks (god sounds so crude). One of them pretty much my doppelganger.

  25. N Says:

    some people on here are retarded. it doesn’t take a genius to see who is more attractive than another when the other is clearly, plain and unattractive. my friend has been cheated on 30times in 3-4yrs, and i have just been recently cheated on. all have been downgrades. her boyfriend told her its because, in his case anyway, he does it for an ego-boost. and because uglier girls are easier to get, that works. he wouldn’t try and go for a hottie because that’ll take work and possible rejection will defeat the purpose of having an ego boost. as for my boyfriend, he’s full of lies so i don’t know which of his explanations are the real one.. in any case he cheated, period.

  26. ladyninja30 Says:

    Cheating is cheating and it sucks but what if not only only do you get cheated on with a much lesser woman, but you get left for that skank…..My boyfriend is still with this nasty ho and it’s been about 2 years. She’s fat, obnoxious, bitchy and demanding. His brother, friends and family hate her. I’ve been wondering off and on what the hell he sees in her?! It may be that she is desperate and pretty much threw herself at him, but eeww really! She is the exact opposite of me, I guess I’m just not supposed to understand it.

  27. doug s Says:

    Women just can’t get over the fact that men cheat for a lot of reasons, most of which have nothing to do with their partner not being attractive enough. They’re stunned when they find out who their S/O has been sleeping with. “She’s twice my size.” “She’s not attractive at all.” “She’s an ugly bitch.”

    Yeah, but he’s doing her when he could be doing you. She’s got SOMETHING he wants, that you don’t have, or if you have it, you’re not sharing it. Usually, she’s just more willing to listen to his s h i t than you, and not be judgmental or condescending.

    And, who is to say what constitutes cheating “down”? A woman not as pretty, not as educated, not as polished, may still be a terrific woman. It’s not YOUR place to make that call.

  28. doug s Says:

    Been There:

    Except for the age difference between yourself and the wife, I think you just described my affair of several years back.

    Are you by the way a nurse in the South?

  29. B Says:

    I am also puzzled by this i am full figured and a few months back i was propositioned by a friend of mine who is quite good looking. We are both married and i said no but a few weeks back i met his wife was quite taken a back by how pretty and slim she was.If i had to guess though she wasn’t very interested in what he had to say and i went to college with him and have always been very impressed by his intelligence. All men need attention and sometimes very beautiful woman aren’t great at giving it. As for calling these women judgmental if my husband cheated i’d call her ugly too!!

  30. henry Says:

    I’m sorry.

    I’m a guy and when the hormones are raging, I will f@ck a puddle of mud if it looks easy enough.

    I apologize for my mind set and stereo typical behavior before the flaming I’m about to receive.

    Those that speak out about that it’s not the looks, but the other someone can be brilliant and great and fun abet with not impressive presentation, etc etc are (I believe) missing the point. That’s not cheating down. You have to give relationships credit for a emotional intellectual portion that may over shadow the physical.

  31. Wendy Says:

    Cuz men like slam pigs…. Sorry to say, but its true… My husband did the same thing to me… The girl was a insecure about herself & my SOON TO BE EX HUSBAND liked the “RUSH” of her wanting him…. & she enjoyed telling all about it, well he lied to me…

  32. Mar Says:

    I notice the jealousy-thing come up again and again. The beauty queen I was in University was not something I bragged about- it was the college men who called me the most beautiful in college!! I should have married the man I loved in Florida whose family owned a string of clothing stores.He was not UGLY like the broke fat farting man I was told to marry by Dean of students. I have now learned to please myself as well as others. And be with more upper-class men. A LESSON WELL LEARNED!

  33. corin Says:

    My soon-to-be-x-husband cheated on me twice with the same woman. I took him back the first time he cheated then he cheated on me again with the same woman which made it doubly painful. I assumed she was much prettier than me. I finally saw her and I was astounded. She was short, had an acne-pocked face, dressed shabby, no womanly figure and had a pronounced prominent lower jaw that made her resemble an APE. Literally! She looked mannish and talked loudly in a booming masculine voice and walked like a man. I am now thinking that my x is a closet homosexual who is attracted to a woman who resembles another man! I had been too feminine for him!

  34. Truth Hurts Says:

    It’s true. Men cheat down. It’s weird. I once cheated (I know, I know. Hubububu cry me a river. It happens. We’re adults here and I stayed out of the shark pit since) but it was a GIANT upgrade. The guy I was dating was a misogynist asshole who manipulated me and once made me apologize for getting angry at him for calling me “jokingly” a c*** in front of our friends. The guy I cheated with was a drunk one night stand who I now talk to on a weekly basis and visit often even though he lives across the country. I don’t get cheating down. You cheat because you want to see what else is out there and get an ego boost. Sleeping with an ugly or less intelligent man wouldn’t be what I’d pursue if single and it sure as hell won’t make me feel better about myself. Let’s be honest. Most of us know who catcalls us and who gives us attention. Usually it’s the average to low tiers. So, if you’re going to do something wrong, go for someone you’d struggle to get otherwise. Yes, it’s more work. But, what do you really get from ugly sex other than novelty? Cheat up or across, gentlemen. I get that sometimes people have different tastes but a 2 and a 10 just aren’t a good matchup.

  35. Truth+Hurts Says:

    PS – Who am I to say who is better or worse? I’m a person who is free to have opinions that others frequently agree with. Whether you like it or not, there is a pretty standard set of ideals that exist. “But I’m big and beautiful!”, you say. “I’m pretty on the inside” Sorry. That’s not really as big a thing as some people want it to be. It seems that guys will do almost anyone as long as they can hide the less attractive ones from others’ judgments. I guess that’s what dating down is: getting to bang someone else (easily, I might add) and getting to hide them so as to not be judged for it.
    At the end of the day, I’m kind of glad for the trend. Because if I ever got cheated on, it’d be so much better to see all your mutual friends quietly whisper what a downgrade the new one is and how your next fling is better than him. Every time I’ve seen this scene, the guy tries to crawl back. Luckily my friends usually have moved across or up and can rub that in the cheater’s face. If you cheat, you cheat. I don’t really have a problem with it. Just don’t expect the other person to take it lying down or to not move onto bigger and better men.

  36. Lindy Says:

    Low self worth. Low self esteem. Very very low self esteem. No self love. I wonder what a man like that thinks of himself. He is probably someone who hates his own reflection when he sees himself in the mirror. He sees himself as trash.

  37. Unknown Says:

    Well im a plus size young woman who has many options but was intrigued by a nice looking military man. I met himand he chased me for MONTHS no dating just texts n calls here n there. Im a busy single woman with no kids. So i have a life but he checked on me and every other day asking about meeting me again. I gave him his chance and we dated for months he was at my home almost everyday then one day I decide to get on my fb acct. And look for his name so we can be friends. Look at his page he has a NEW woman he had bought a house with a month before he meet me and she is pretty but frail. Im big but beautiful. On his page you can see he was going through a divorce and seen his wife she is cool woman nothing out going as my self but like i said, in this situation all his cheating has gained him two pretty ladies. But his first love was plus size woman. He love big pretty women. Now his first love is like myself outgoing. So now i think his personal interest is big beautiful women but his heart got hurt so he parades around with small chicks and now cheats on them with big chicks and im not the only big woman he has been cheating with but i gave him a run for his money now he got caught but inlike of me and confused. So never assume that these men are cheating down. They can cheat up or cheat with ehomever. Theres a reason he cheated. You either find it to fix your relationship or leave him alone. And sad to say ugly is the characteristics if a persons behavior. Any woman is capable of having some attractiveness.

  38. Layla Says:

    Just reading through the BS from some on here. Cheating down is not always only about looks (or whatever the standard of beauty is). It is about intellect, sense of humor, personality…the entire package. I was recently cheated on. The woman i was cheated on with was someone who was a complete psycho, nut job. She is stupid and ignorant on top of being physically ugly (by societies standards). The woman had nothin going on. Why? Why did he do it I asked? Why with her? The answer was that he knew he couldn’t continue a relationship with her because she was such a mess in every way. I was going through a bad time and wasn’t fully emotionally available to him. He said he wanted me, and she was a substitute to fill in the time until I was there. He said he wasn’t even sexually attracted to her, but he could use and abuse her sexually, and so he did. He even told her she was a booty call and he would never love her, that he loves me. We are trying to sort through the issues, and as it stands I don’t know if we will. The explaination makes sense to me even if it is embellished for my benefit. Is it plausible?

  39. bobo Says:


  40. Denise Says:

    I think it goes definitely beyond sex.

    Some men are stronger than others when it comes to temptation.

    Maybe the reality is that if a wife/s.o. becomes emotionally unavailable, or a nag! and another (less pretty, sophisticated or smart) woman REALLY listens to him, praises him, makes him feel good about himself…he becomes interested, even obsessed with her.

    This new, less than beautiful (even homely) creature makes him feel good about himself. She is full of admiration for him. She’s his friend who does not criticize him – and only notices his good side. She comments on his virtues and strengths. In her own way she compliments him on his manliness.

    I certainly am not advocating cheating but we are all human; we all have an ego and we all have the desire to be appreciated!

  41. Chris Says:

    I left my wife who was into fitness for a younger but larger woman. She is beautiful and I find her sexy as any other woman. I checked out on my wife because of her as a person, there is so much more beauty in a person than what the scale says.

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